BEDFORD, NH – Girl Scouts change the world, and proof of that took place on June 18, when Gov. Chris Sununu signed into law legislation raising the minimum legal age of marriage in New Hampshire to 16 for both boys and girls – bills that are the result of a Girl Scout Gold Award project.
Cassandra Levesque, 19, of Barrington, earned the highest honor in Girl Scouting last year with her Gold Award project to end the practice of child marriage. Until now, New Hampshire allowed middle-school girls to marry at 13 and boys at 14 with the permission of a judge. With the governor’s signature, the legal age of marriage will be raised to 16 with a judge’s permission for both genders, and to 18 generally.
“I am very proud of all the people who worked with me,” Levesque said at the signing ceremony. “I’m excited to have the bills signed. He (Sununu) wrote ‘Thank you’ on the bills!”
Levesque’s involvement in this legislation has been a life-changing experience for her. She not only has received full four-year tuition from Southern New Hampshire University, where she is majoring in political science through their online programs, she also filed to run for state representative in her hometown of Barrington.
“Cassie is an extraordinary young woman and we want to recognize her leadership, while giving her the tools and education she can use to positively shape the world,” said Paul LeBlanc, president of the university. “SNHU embraces women’s leadership and empowerment, and we welcome Cassie as a member of the SNHU community.”
“I became a Gold Award Girl Scout for my work to change laws and protect girls against child marriage in my state,” said Levesque, “an issue that’s really personal to me, since both my grandmother and great-grandmother were child brides.”
It was not an easy road for Levesque, with her first bill almost dying when the New Hampshire House voted to postpone the bill last year. But she persisted, speaking before state legislators in Concord, and with the help of her primary sponsors, got three bills back into consideration and passed this year. HB 1586 and 1587 were sponsored by Rep. Jacalyn Cilley, and HB 1161 was sponsored by Amanda Gourgue. HB 1587 raises the age of marriage, while HB 1586 addresses a forced marriage that would constitute sexual assault, and HB 1161 requires a judge to grant permission for a marriage of someone 16 or 17 years old.
Last year, when a House member was dismissive of Levesque’s mission, she stood up for her beliefs.
“I’m a Girl Scout, and Girl Scouts are the leaders of today,” she told him. “We are future presidents. We are lawmakers – the majority of female senators and members of the House of Representatives are Girl Scout alums. We are unstoppable and we won’t be ignored.”
The young activist’s efforts have already brought national and international attention to the issue of child marriage here in the United States. She’s been interviewed by the New York Times, Time Magazine, BBC, London Times, London Independent, Cosmopolitan, Glamour Magazine, Teen Vogue, Global Citizen, and even appeared on “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee” in addition to local New Hampshire and Boston media outlets. She also recently made an appearance on MSNBC with Stephanie Ruhle. A highlight of this year for Levesque was the invitation to appear in Philadelphia to unveil the new Girl Scout public service announcement, “A Lifetime of Leadership,” with Girl Scouts USA CEO Sylvia Acevedo.
Levesque also leads a troop of her own, and is looking forward to her Daisy troop bridging to Brownies in the fall.
Earning the Gold Award requires many hours of planning and implementing a challenging, large-scale project. Successful projects not only engage others, but are sustainable enough to create lasting community impact.
Since 1916, Girl Scouts have been making meaningful, sustainable change in their communities and around the world. The Girl Scout Gold Award acknowledges the power behind each recipient’s dedication to not only empowering and bettering herself, but also to making the world a better place for others. Gold Award Girl Scouts are courageous leaders and visionary change makers. They are our future, and it looks bright!
About the Girl Scout Gold Award
- Gold Award Girl Scouts on average spend one to two years on their project.
- The average age of Gold Award Girl Scouts is 17.
- Since 1916, 1 million girls have earned the Gold Award or its equivalent.
- Gold Award Girl Scouts who join the armed forces enter one rank higher than other recruits.
- University research indicates that noting you are a Gold Award Girl Scout on a college application is influential in the admissions decision-making process.
- A Gold Award project must be sustainable after the girl’s involvement ends.
- 11 young women earned their Gold Award last year in New Hampshire and Vermont as part of Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains.
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About Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains
Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains is recognized throughout New Hampshire and Vermont as a leading expert on girls. Our innovative leadership programs help girls discover, connect, and take action as they develop strong values, a social conscience, and a deep sense of self and their potential. Through our exciting and challenging programs, Girl Scouts not only participate but also take the lead in a range of activities—from kayaking, archery, and camping, to coding, robotics, financial literacy training, and beyond! Serving nearly 10,000 girls throughout New Hampshire and Vermont, girls discover the fun, friendship, and power of girls together. Visit www.girlscoutsgwm.org.